I've been an outspoken critic of Anita Sarkeesian for a long time. I've also been heavily critical of third-wave feminism and equity social justice. However, almost a year after hashtag GamerGate, I think the playing field has changed.
First off, I will say as a disclaimer: I do consider myself an egalitarian, and that does extend to equality for women as well. However, I have been - and still am - critical of so-called third-wave feminism for being, in my eyes, an elitist twisting of feminist ideals designed purely to benefit the whims of wealthy, white, hyperprivileged women that too often disregards class and other socioeconomic conditions.
When Anita Sarkeesian first started doing her thing, I was angry. Not because I felt threatened, but because her content was being shoved down my throat by the gaming media as holier than holy, without leaving room for argument or skepticism. Those who know me know that this sort of thing really bothers me. If an idea is valid, it should be able to survive the gauntlet of criticism.
I also felt that the language she used - at the time, very similar to that used on sites like Tumblr and Jezebel where discourse is frowned upon in favour of angry, passionate statements of hyperbole - was way too abrasive and extreme for the large topic she was attempting to tackle.
And that's the opinion I held. For years. The only news I'd hear about this media figure came from stories about questionable tweets, or harassment campaigns (that, on the surface, seemed pretty tame for the anonymous frontier of the cyberwebs), or people making videos to rebut her.
But things started getting weird. Being a fan of a few YouTubers that are decidedly anti-Anita, I started to notice more and more that these videos were becoming... Creepy. They were no longer about her arguments, they were no longer about data or even subjective opiniom about the issues she was speaking up about. They were videos about HER. "This woman wants to destroy video games! Her fans are psychopaths! The gaming media is in cahoots with this lunatic to push an agenda!"
These videos really turned me off of their side. I have nothing against her on a personal level; she seems to be a very skilled media personality who took a topic that easily falls victim to hateful rhetoric and built a career of public speaking engagements and videos into a company with a few employees. Even if you don't agree with her, that's a great story. So to see people attacking this woman on a personal level when she basically refused to go away, that's when I thought, "Well shit, why not just let her speak? If her ideas are shit, they'll go away on their own, without the namecalling."
When I learned that she would be a speaker at the 2015 Progress Summit (a progressive politics conference run by the Broadbent Institute). It seemed weird to me that she'd be speaking at this; it's normally a gathering for social democrats... Union guys, socialist thinkers, etc. A video game critic seemed an odd choice. So I looked at some of her more recent speaking engagements.
Her tone has decidedly changed. Instead of the combative, scolding attitude her early videos had, her speaking has become much more refined, likely trying to reach a different audience. I'm not sure if she's received constuctive feedback from her critics or if she's just not as faithful to the perpetually angry Tumblrkin, but her arguments contain a lot more quality data, a lot more consideration of the listener's intelligence, and a lot less bullshit.
I still don't agree with her on everything, but she has a place. A common argument I hear from anti-Anita folks is that she's trying to block groups of people out, or marginalize the views of others... But I just don't see this. I think instead of trying to fight this person, we should look for more like her. We should encourage a diverse range of inputs and perpectives. I mean, what's the harm? In a gaming world of greys and browns, of microtransactions, and of sameish military shooters, diversity and innovation is what the industry is desperately lacking.
It's fine to not agree with someone. In fact, I encourage people to disagree with me, to show how their views are different from my own. Why? Because a conservative world where nothing ever changes is horribly boring. And who wants that? Especially in gaming? Why not welcome changes and just see what happens? Good ideas live, and bad ideas die. If you let more ideas in, sure, you'll get a lot of bad ones... But by shutting the door to alternative perspectives, you shut the door to the good ones too.
We, as a group of human beings, should not let this happen; lest we stagnate and fade away.